My friends Barbara and Holt have an excellent blog, What Holt and Barbara Had for Dinner, that should appeal to anyone interested in food and/or cooking; their latest post is about gazpacho, both the many ways of making it and the etymology. With regard to the latter they say:

The etymology is wonderful. American Heritage says “Spanish, probably of Mozarabic origin; akin to Spanish caspicias, remainders, worthless things.” But caspicias isn’t attested until 1899.
The Real Academia Española’s Diccionario de la lengua española (22d ed.) has finally tracked it down. We begin with Ancient Greek γάζα (gaza) ‘treasure’; but wait, we can go even further back! Pomponius Mela (and who can doubt him) tells that it’s a Persian word, and sure enough there is a Persian ganj, Sanskrit gañja meaning ‘treasure’ (now before you get excited this is not to be confused with Sanskrit gañjâ meaning ‘hemp’; Hindi gânjh(â)). So we have the Greek word γαζοφυλάκιον (gaza-phulakion) ‘treasure-guarder’, ‘treasure house’. This is borrowed into Mozarabic as *gazpáčo and hence gazpacho, a little treasure house of edibles. Cool, huh, Indo-Iranian through Greek through Arabic to Spanish to our table.
If Language Hat can get me an etymology for gañja (and the other ganja, too), I’d appreciate it. Our cheap-ass university doesn’t have a copy of Mayrhofer’s Kurzgefasstes (!) etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindischen. We’re all waiting for the musical.

Needless to say, the first thing I did was go to the OED, where I was confronted with the extremely helpful etymology “[Sp.]” I’m afraid I don’t have Mayrhofer (which lists for $995), nor do I have any useful ideas about the etymology except to suggest that the Real Academia is reaching (I’m sorry, but gazofilákion ‘repository of treasure’ > gazpacho ‘cold soup’ is quite a leap, and it doesn’t seem obvious to me that the Greek word would give Mozarabic *gazpáčo, which of course is a hypothetical form anyway. So I thought I’d appeal to the varied LH readership, in particular to those interested in culinary etymology (MMcM, I’m looking at you!): any thoughts on the subject?


  1. No thoughts on the soup, but M Monier-Wiliams has several meanings for Sanskrit gañja, among which: a treasury, a tavern, a drinking-vessel (esp. one for intoxicating liquors), hemp. MMW adds it (as an explanation?) in Persian script. Stengass’ Persian dict. has only store, magazine and related translations for ganj – his hemp is gânja, tagged as Hindi. An interesting journey between meanings and languages.

  2. This is just a crazy thought, but could there be any connection to old Italian zuppato (now sync. zuppo), referring to soaked bread or bread used in soup (zuppa)? It just occurred to me, and I haven’t tried to think through how it might arise. Ridiculous?

  3. They have Mayrhofer at the BPL. (Last time it was a bit of a chore getting it. It’s three volumes in different bindings and not all clearly marked on the spines.) I’ll try to swing by and see what it says.
    In the meantime, here’s some more on Persian ganj ‘Schatz’.

  4. My library–that would be, um the British Library–does have a copy of Mayrhofer, so I might check tomorrow. Incidentally, there are quite a lot of Renaissance encyclopaedias / dictionaries called Gazophylacium, it was evidently a popular title, as Thesaurus would become.

  5. Roger Depledge says

    Googling gazpacho and the Castilian spelling of the great Catalan Joan Coromines (1905-1997) brought the encouraging news that Leslie Brenner won a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for her article on gazpacho in which she says
    “Although there is debate among linguists as to the derivation of the word gazpacho, the most widely accepted explanation is that of Spanish philologist Juan Corominas, who suggests the origin is the pre-Roman Mozarab word caspa, meaning ‘fragments’ or ‘flakes,’ as in small pieces of bread.”
    I too once looked the word up in the Real Academia’s dictionary and was so taken with the Greek that I went no further. But Coromines is the man.

  6. Brenner’s article.
    They have Corominas’ dictionary at more university libraries.

  7. As requested, here is Mayrhofer, with a little bit of hyperlink goodness.

    gañjaḥ² m., -am n. Schatzkammer / treasury, Lehnwort aus dem Iranischen (vgl. neup. ganǰ „Schatz“, ap. [Lehnwort im Elamischen] *gaⁿza dss. [Cameron, Persepolis Treasury Tablets, Chicago 1948, 42]), woraus andererseits arm. ganǰ, gr. γάζα (> lat. gaza), syr. gazā „Schatz“ u.a.; Weber, Abh. Ak. Berlin 1887, 7; Hübschmann, Armen. Grammatik I, 126; Schaeder, Iranische Beiträge I (1930) 245 und Anm. 3 (mit Lit.) Vgl. gañjavaraḥ.

    gañjavaraḥ m. Schatzmeister / treasurer; Lehnwort aus dem Iranischen: vgl. neup. ganǰvar „Schatzmeister“, buddh. sogd. γnzβr-, armen. (LW < Iran.) ganǰavor dss., ferner ap. *gaⁿzabara als LW im Elamischen und das dem Iranischen entstammende lyk. gasabala „Schatzmeister“ (Meriggi, Rendiconti Ser. 6, Vol. 4, 449, Nr. 20). Zu gañjaḥ² s. d.

    gañjā f. Hanf / hemp, prākrit gañja- m. gujarāti gā̃jo m. Hanf (u.a.m.), vielleicht mit gṛñja- „eine bestimmte Pflanze“ (s. gṛñjanaḥ) zusammenhängend (nach Wilson bedeutete gṛñjana- auch „die Spitzen vom Hanf, welche als Berauschungsmittel gekaut werden“ [s. PW, Monier-Williams s.v.]) Fraglich.

    gṛñjanaḥ m. eine Art Knoblauch / a kind of garlic, gṛñjaḥ m. eine best. Pflanze [vgl. gañjā?]. Zusammenhang mit gr. γέλγις Knoblauchkern, schwed. kälk Mark im Holz (WP I 612, P. 357) bleibt durchaus unsicher.

    I’ll try to get to Corominas tomorrow, and anything I find comparing theories. In the meantime, here is a Breve snippet.
    And a bonus: A Bibliography of Etymological Dictionaries.

  8. I don’t know Mayrhofer’s modest Wörterbuch, but his short grammar of Sanskrit (in translation) graces my collection. Very handy, very readable.

  9. Here’s Corominas (“Brief” edition) for gazpacho:
    GAZPACHO, 1611, en portugués “caspacho”. Origen incierto, quizás deriv. mozárabe del prerromano “caspa” ‘residuo, fragmento’ (de donde el cast. “caspa”) por alusión a los pedacitos de pan y verduras que entran en el gazpacho.
    I don’t like it much.
    Today “caspa” means dandruff.

  10. This is Rae et for gazpacho and I have to remark it says “Perhaps”.
    Quizá del ár. hisp. *gazpáčo, y este del gr. γαζοφυλάκιον, cepillo de la iglesia, por alus. a la diversidad de su contenido, ya que en él se depositaban como limosna monedas, mendrugos y otros objetos
    Gazpacho was originally made on bread, almonds and olive oil, sometimes grapes were added. Tomatoes arrived after 1492 and gazpacho already existed.

  11. “Ganj” ??? is still in use in modern Hindi, meaning an established, permanent marketplace. I’m under the impression that “gaanja” ????, as in marijuana, is linked to “Ganga” ??? or ????, as in the Ganges river, around which it grows natively and in great profusion. But I don’t know for sure.

  12. As Silmarillion says, even the DRAE doesn’t take its etymology seriously, and Coromines says that his caspa leftover theory is speculative. Covarrubias 1611 suggests it comes from the Tuscan name for a similar dish. Speculative etymology in Western Romance languages goes hand in hand with other amusing but rather pointless debates, like the ethnicity of Columbus. (He was Norwegian, of course.)

  13. The full Corominas does not have a proper entry for gazpacho: it just sends one to caspa. The caspa entry is four pages long. An earlier (smaller) edition is in Google Books. It happens that the first volume, which has the Cs, has snippets, while the rest have no preview. So it is possible to get a bit that way, but I don’t recommend it.

    I’m not sure I can even summarize it in this little box. But I will list some of the highlights. I am not going to touch the question of whether there is a point to this.

    • gazpacho may be caspaacho.
    • -acho indicates an Andalusian Mozarabic origin.
    • caspa is probably pre-Roman.
    • Asturian caspia ‘apple residue’.
    • Dialectal Italian caspu ‘grape residue’.
    • French gaspaille ‘cereal residue’.
    • The main sense in Spanish and Portuguese, ‘dandruff’, is not documented until the 19th century.
    • The derivative caspicias ‘remainder; something worthless’ though not attested until 1884, indicates a semantic area that justifies including gazpacho.
    • An early (1618) use by Vicente Espinel is interesting because of the locale and description.
    • Covarrubias and Cervantes both use the plural gazpachos as a collective, suggesting an original sense of small pieces of bread.
    • In Festschrift Louis Gauchat, Johannes Hubschmi[e]d proposes different cognates.
    • Perhaps related to Basque kazalda ‘scab’ or to gazta / gazna ‘cheese’, in which case the -pa in Occitan gaspo ‘whey’ is some kind of suffix.
    • Rohlfs’ proposal of Arabic k-s-ba (كسب) ‘dregs of sesame after expressing the oil’ is improbable; also, this is a Persian loanword.
    • There are two different kinds of gazpacho: the Andalusian and the Manchego-Valencian.
    • However, there is a meatless (!) version in la Mancha, known as gazpacho viudo.
    • There is no firm reason for supposing that the Manchego-Valencian type is the more primitive one than the Andalusian, which matches the earliest descriptions.
    • A folk etymology in la Mancha derives gazpacho from gazapo ‘little rabbit’.
    • caspa may also be the source of caspiroleta (more or less South-American eggnog), on account of the Cuban version cafiroleta (< *casbiroleta), made with pieces of sweet potato and coconut.

    Note that at least the later edition of Covarrubias online (zoom) proposes both the Tuscan guazo ‘a kind of soup’ and the Hebrew gazaz (גָּזַז). This is also the etymon given in this book. This and related Semitic roots have the problem that the verb doesn’t usually refer to cutting pieces of bread (see this discussion).

    Various sources (e.g. this) claim that it comes from Arabic for ‘soaked bread’. Some add the transliteration khubz mushrib.

    The earliest quotation in the OED is from an earlier edition of this from 1845. However, Don Quixote was so popular that it was almost immediately translated into English, and it has gaſpachos. A 1652 edition shows up in EEBO from full-text search. And there is an earlier 1620 edition with it that isn’t indexed.

  14. There appears to be an inexhaustible supply of gazpacho philology.
    Here’s an article in JSTOR on the suffix -azo, -aço with some exploration of -acho, which asks, “[I]s there any connection with P[adre] Isla’s flaires gasp-achos ‘monks caring for the sick’?”

  15. There is no register of caspacho in Corde or Davies, so perhaps we can gorget caspa-acho as gazpacho origin. I do not believe gazpacho is related to gaspiller, because gaspiller means to waste and gazpacho is the opposite.
    Gazpacho first attested in Corde and in Davies in : Arte de Marear AUTHOR: Guevara, Antonio de. (1481-1545) DATE: 1513
    ASARÁS Las Perdizes, y luego las cortarás, apartando toda la carne de los huessos, y hazerla has tajadillas pequeñas: luego harás vna sopa de pan blanco cortado con la mano a bocadillos, de manera que esté la sopa bien alta. Luego pondrás por encima la carne de las perdizes. Luego tomarás caldo de la olla, y échale vn poco de buen azeite y vinagre, que esté bien agrio, y pimienta, y vn poco de sal, y échalo por encima de la sopa, y de la carne, y ponla a calentar, y síruela caliente. Esta sopa es sopa de gazpacho caliente. Esta misma sopa podrás hazer de conejos, beneficiándola como la de las perdizes.
    1611, Martínez Motiño, Francisco. Arte de cozina, pastelería, vizcochería y conseruería. Corde
    Es saludable consejo se provea para un no menester de un ristre de ajos, de un horco de cebollas, de una botija de vinagre, de una alcuza de aceite, y aun de un trapo de sal; porque dado caso que son manjares rústicos y bascosos, no son delicados para se marear ni muy codiciosos para hurtar. Y más y allende desto, ya puede ser que de migas y agua, sal y aceite, haga un tal gazpacho que le sepa mejor que un capón en otro tiempo.
    Arte de Marear AUTHOR: Guevara, Antonio de. (1481-1545) DATE: 1513
    Here we can see that the only thing in common in all gazpachos is oil, vinegar and water. Covarrubias says gazpacho origin is perhaps related to tuscan guazo. This is guazzo, full of water. Cer. Guazzare, guazza amd guazzabuglio “cosse que bollendo si agitano confusamente in un liquido” “Miscuglio, confusione”.
    Guazzo has entered in the spanish language as aguazo, kind of painting equiv to “gouache”.
    The root for guazzo may be wed 1, same as water or akºƒ, latin aqua, agua, acqua,agoa, etc.
    Acho does not indicate an andalusian mozarabic origin. It is an aumentative/despective suffix, from latin -acĕus.
    From γαζοφυλάκιον derives gazofilacio.

  16. caspacho is one Portuguese form, though all the dictionaries I find indicate a Spanish origin for it.
    I’m afraid I didn’t do a very good job of summarizing. (Not saying I agree, but just trying to represent fairly.)
    The Portuguese word gaspa ‘remiendo que se supone en la punta del calzado’ is also mentioned. So perhaps it would be clearer to say *kaspa-acho and gaspa & caspa < *kaspa. That gazpacho is the earliest attested form is perhaps not unexpected.
    The proposed common semantic space of caspa, etc. is ‘residue’, so both gaspiller ‘waste’ and gazpacho ‘bits of leftover bread’ work. There is no implied judgment in the base meaning.
    I believe Corominas’ point,

    … el sufijo -acho señala un origen mazárabe andaluz, de acuerdo con el área principal del vocablo en el dia.

    is clarified by the Malkiel paper I subsequently linked to:

    Like their congeners, Spanish and Portuguese have preserved and, in part, developed the Latin suffix -ĀCEU, which appears in three shapes in medieval texts: as -aço [atso] in Old Galician-Portuguese, almost indiscriminately as -aço [atso] or -azo [adzo] in Old Spanish, and as -acho [ačo], later [aʃo, aʃu] in the west, in words of rustic flavor assumed to have been transmitted to the northern dialects through the Mozarabic channel.

    A pre-Roman (Celtic?) root has gotten a productive suffix ultimately of Latin origin but in a particular Andalusian form.

  17. Wow, MMcM, my faith in you is fully justified! Thanks much for your work and reportage, and I’m sure Holt and Barbara appreciate it at least as much.

  18. Since we’ve got much of the raw material together, a few works (in Spanish) that attempt to summarize from one perspective or another:
    Antropología del gazpacho.
    From a Magazine Gastronómico Digital:
    Los gazpachos
    Gazpachos para pontificar
    And from the Gazpacho article in some online etymologies, an earlier (1607) dictionary (Spanish-French) reference here.

  19. Thanks all! The gazaphylakion etymology initially looked appealing as a possible outcome of syncopes: gaz(a)ph(y)lakion, (though I hadn’t a single other case to go on) but the productive suffix -aceus rules that out rather clearly. So a *casp-aceus looks very likely.
    I chew my words.

  20. To reenforce MMcM words, the Diccionari de la llengua catalana provides the following
    [del cast. gazpacho, der. de caspa, amb el sufix -acho d’origen mossàrab andalús]
    On gazpacho
    Sobre lo cual discurrí que cada uno apetece en lo que se ha criado, pues dicho gazpacho es cosa de pastores o rústicos que no tienen otra cosa que comer, pues se compone de ajos, vinagre, pan y agua.
    AÑO: 1705
    AUTOR: Lantery, Raimundo de
    TÍTULO: Memorias
    TEMA: 19.Memorias y diarios
    PUBLICACIÓN: Escelicer, S.L. (Madrid), 1949
    entreteniéndose con todos mientras se asó una pierna de carnero, se hizo una gran tortilla de torreznos y se guisó una buena cazuela de estofado de vaca, que con unas sardinas escabechadas y una tajada de queso por postre, comenzando con su gazpacho de huevos duros, componía entre todo una cena substancial y sólida, sacándose, después de levantados los manteles, un plato de cebolletas con su salero al lado para echar la de san Vitoriano.
    AÑO: 1758
    AUTOR: Isla, José Francisco de
    TÍTULO: Historia del famoso predicador Fray Gerundio de Campazas alias Zotes
    TEMA: 12.Relato extenso novela y otras formas similares
    PUBLICACIÓN: José Jurado, Gredos (Madrid), 1992
    Soy el Diphtongo, y no sé
    En mi sexo de gazpacho,
    Si soy hembra, ó si soy macho.
    AÑO: 1787
    AUTOR: Isla, José Francisco de
    TÍTULO: Descripción de la máscara o mojiganga
    TEMA: 19.Cartas y relaciones
    PUBLICACIÓN: Impr. Antonio Espinosa (Madrid), 1787

  21. To , I’ll only add that Meyer-Lubke, Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch p. 809, no. 9685, derives these, plus
    Sicilian kaspu ‘olive dregs’
    Piedmontese kaspi,
    Bergam. kaspe,
    SW French gaspa all ‘wine dregs’ from an Arabic kusb ‘Satz beim Ölpressen’; but then says “doch sieht man nicht wie ein arab. Wort nach Norditalien gelanngt sein kann.” “But one cannot see how an Arabic word made it to Northern Italy.” A punto.

  22. To MMcM’s learned discussion, I’ll only add that Meyer-Lubke, Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch p. 809, no. 9685, derives these, plus
    Sicilian kaspu ‘olive dregs’
    Piedmontese kaspi,
    Bergam. kaspe,
    SW French gaspa all ‘wine dregs’
    from an Arabic kusb ‘Satz beim Ölpressen’; but then says “doch sieht man nicht wie ein arab. Wort nach Norditalien gelangt sein kann.” “But one cannot see how an Arabic word made it to Northern Italy.” A punto.

  23. David Marjanović says

    My sister, who has been to Spain, adamantly insists on a relation to German Gatsch, a pejorative for “mud” and stuff of similar mushy consistence.
    Which brings us to the next problem: where does Gatsch come from? It has a long vowel, which makes the tsch look like a single phoneme. That’s not normal in German. I guess it’s onomatopoietic…

  24. Funny you should mention this. I recently stumbled on a passage of R. Campbell Thompson’s A Dictionary of Assyrian Botany in which the various attested cuneiform names for hemp are discussed. One paragraph, on page 221, deals with (šam)GÁN-ZI-GÙN-NU, which may be translated “Narcotic weaving plant.” THe element that he is translating as “narcotic” is GÁN-ZI, literally “soul robber,” and there are other narcotics whose names start with that prefix. The paragraph concludes:

    As Sir David Prain pointed out to me, there is great similarity, superficially at least, between GÁN-ZI and the Hindustani gāñjhā, Cannabis…”

    Can’t say I know enough about Sumerian, Akkadian and Indo-Iranian to judge this theory (though the fact that it doesn’t seem to have caught on since its publication in 1949 does not speak well). Can anyone here give a more educated opinion?

  25. Dr. Weevil says

    For the Persian-Greek connection, is it relevant that the city of Gaza was already known as Gaza to the Greeks and Romans (sorry to be so vague) and was also known for its exports of fine linens? Some have suggested that ‘gauze’ comes from the name of Gaza, though I gather that that is disputed.

  26. Relevant perhaps, but not likely to be a direct connection: the name already shows up in Egyptian. Don’t recall what era exactly, but surely by the New Kingdom.

  27. Sobre lo cual discurrí que cada uno apetece en lo que se ha criado, pues dicho gazpacho es cosa de pastores o rústicos que no tienen otra cosa que comer, pues se compone de ajos, vinagre, pan y agua.

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